The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. ~Neil Gaiman
I think about how to motivate children to read every day. The ability and the propensity to read is the most important factor in determining student success, not just on the state mandated tests, college exams or any academic undertaking, but in life overall. I truly believe this.
Children need five basic things in order to become readers.
1. They need instruction in reading on how to read from an early age.
2. They need adult and peer examples to be examples and provide encouragement to read.
3. They need time to read.
4. They need the freedom to read whatever they want to read without fear of being judged.
5. They need a library with a good collection of current, relevant books from which to choose.
Teaching is what we do. Instruction is provided from kindergarten forward in the subject of Reading.
Role model readers can come from anywhere. The best models are parents or loved ones, but teachers and other adult leaders can provide examples. Peers can become role models and can serve to motivate their friends as well.
Time to read is something we need to give our students. I'm happy to see that in our school the teachers encourage students to read in the library on their library day. I believe a D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time would be very beneficial to students as well. A culture of reading needs to be developed.
Students need to be free to choose what they'd like to read. This is probably the most important factor in determining a child's success at reading. Common sense tells us that if it's something they like, they will read it. Even if the material is a little too hard or easy, they're reading. Reading success leads to more reading. Children's tastes and abilities will evolve, given the right reading environment free of restrictions and judgments.
There are many things we can do to try an encourage reading. Creating a welcoming and helping environment in the library is important. Providing up to date, relevant books for differing interests is also important. Reading incentives and fun programs can generate interest and motivate more reluctant readers to take part. It all comes together, but it under it all lays the foundation of the freedom of choice and allowing children to follow their interests.